UAE dwelling Federer turns down Abu Dhabi approach
Organisers for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship have revealed that they approached Roger Federer to compete in Abu Dhabi following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal but the Swiss turned down the invitation.
Federer, who is currently in Dubai doing his pre-season training, is missing the Abu Dhabi showpiece for the first time since its inception in 2009 and there has been speculation that he has been omitted from the line-up this year due to him parting ways with event organisers, IMG.
But Greg Sproule, the Managing Director of IMG Middle East, insists that is not the case and that the door will always remain open for the world No2.
“We spoke to a number of players for sure. And I will also say we spoke with Roger Federer to come and play,” Sproule told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday. “As you know Roger is a very dear friend of the Championship. He’s arguably the greatest player that has ever lived.
"Roger plans his schedule far in advance. He has just come off of a very intensive tour of South America and he’s training as he always does for the Australian Open. But that training has only just begun and he’s not ready to play.
"He’s in the UAE and he could not have been more friendly, more receptive, more professional as Roger and his manager Tony Godsick always are, and we would certainly love to have Roger come back and play some day.”
Instead, Nadal's compatriot and World No11 Nicolas Almagro has been confirmed as a replacement in the line-up of the MWTC which kicks off in the UAE capital on Thursday.
Nadal had made a last-minute withdrawal from the event citing a stomach virus which means his long-awaited return from an injury lay-off has been postponed once again.
Almagro, making his debut at the event, will commence his Abu Dhabi campaign on day two where he awaits the winner of the opening day match between Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic.
“Nicolas Almagro is consistently amongst the leading players in the world and comes to Abu Dhabi off a career high season,” said Sproule.
“He’s an excellent addition to an already extremely strong player field and we are pleased to have him joining us at the event. This year’s player field is among the best of the tennis season. Outside of Grand Slams you would be hard pressed to find a draw with five of the top-10 players in the world.”
Sproule admits everyone’s disappointment for Nadal’s 11th hour withdrawal but guarantees the tournament will still deliver some high quality tennis with six of the world’s top-11 all present in the UAE capital.
“We’re all disappointed that Rafa can’t join us. He’s played here every year. He’s won twice and no one can be more disappointed than we are,” he added.
Sproule said with the latest changes in the line-up, organisers have considered rearranging the schedule to give Murray a bye and move him to day two, but have opted to keep things the way they are, with Almagro taking Nadal’s spot in the semi-finals.
“We’ve looked at all the options, but the truth is that we had promoted that Andy was going to be playing on day one. We had promised that to our fans and those people that had purchased days for day one so we wanted to follow through with that and leave the draw as is.”
When asked whether Nadal’s last-minute withdrawal had anything to do with recent reports indicating the Spaniard has also parted ways with IMG, Sproule says both are completely unrelated and refused to comment on any speculation.